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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Part 20 out of 21

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rushed into my arms, where I held him tight.

'All well, my dear Traddles?'

'All well, my dear, dear Copperfield, and nothing but good news!'

We cried with pleasure, both of us.

'My dear fellow,' said Traddles, rumpling his hair in his
excitement, which was a most unnecessary operation, 'my dearest
Copperfield, my long-lost and most welcome friend, how glad I am to
see you! How brown you are! How glad I am! Upon my life and honour,
I never was so rejoiced, my beloved Copperfield, never!'

I was equally at a loss to express my emotions. I was quite unable
to speak, at first.

'My dear fellow!' said Traddles. 'And grown so famous! My glorious
Copperfield! Good gracious me, WHEN did you come, WHERE have you
come from, WHAT have you been doing?'

Never pausing for an answer to anything he said, Traddles, who had
clapped me into an easy-chair by the fire, all this time
impetuously stirred the fire with one hand, and pulled at my
neck-kerchief with the other, under some wild delusion that it was
a great-coat. Without putting down the poker, he now hugged me
again; and I hugged him; and, both laughing, and both wiping our
eyes, we both sat down, and shook hands across the hearth.

'To think,' said Traddles, 'that you should have been so nearly
coming home as you must have been, my dear old boy, and not at the
ceremony!'

'What ceremony, my dear Traddles?'

'Good gracious me!' cried Traddles, opening his eyes in his old
way. 'Didn't you get my last letter?'

'Certainly not, if it referred to any ceremony.'

'Why, my dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, sticking his hair
upright with both hands, and then putting his hands on my knees, 'I
am married!'

'Married!' I cried joyfully.

'Lord bless me, yes,!' said Traddles - 'by the Reverend Horace - to
Sophy - down in Devonshire. Why, my dear boy, she's behind the
window curtain! Look here!'

To my amazement, the dearest girl in the world came at that same
instant, laughing and blushing, from her place of concealment. And
a more cheerful, amiable, honest, happy, bright-looking bride, I
believe (as I could not help saying on the spot) the world never
saw. I kissed her as an old acquaintance should, and wished them
joy with all my might of heart.

'Dear me,' said Traddles, 'what a delightful re-union this is! You
are so extremely brown, my dear Copperfield! God bless my soul, how
happy I am!'

'And so am I,' said I.

'And I am sure I am!' said the blushing and laughing Sophy.

'We are all as happy as possible!' said Traddles. 'Even the girls
are happy. Dear me, I declare I forgot them!'

'Forgot?' said I.

'The girls,' said Traddles. 'Sophy's sisters. They are staying
with us. They have come to have a peep at London. The fact is,
when - was it you that tumbled upstairs, Copperfield?'

'It was,' said I, laughing.

'Well then, when you tumbled upstairs,' said Traddles, 'I was
romping with the girls. In point of fact, we were playing at Puss
in the Corner. But as that wouldn't do in Westminster Hall, and as
it wouldn't look quite professional if they were seen by a client,
they decamped. And they are now - listening, I have no doubt,'
said Traddles, glancing at the door of another room.

'I am sorry,' said I, laughing afresh, 'to have occasioned such a
dispersion.'

'Upon my word,' rejoined Traddles, greatly delighted, 'if you had
seen them running away, and running back again, after you had
knocked, to pick up the combs they had dropped out of their hair,
and going on in the maddest manner, you wouldn't have said so. My
love, will you fetch the girls?'

Sophy tripped away, and we heard her received in the adjoining room
with a peal of laughter.

'Really musical, isn't it, my dear Copperfield?' said Traddles.
'It's very agreeable to hear. It quite lights up these old rooms.
To an unfortunate bachelor of a fellow who has lived alone all his
life, you know, it's positively delicious. It's charming. Poor
things, they have had a great loss in Sophy - who, I do assure you,
Copperfield is, and ever was, the dearest girl! - and it gratifies
me beyond expression to find them in such good spirits. The
society of girls is a very delightful thing, Copperfield. It's not
professional, but it's very delightful.'

Observing that he slightly faltered, and comprehending that in the
goodness of his heart he was fearful of giving me some pain by what
he had said, I expressed my concurrence with a heartiness that
evidently relieved and pleased him greatly.

'But then,' said Traddles, 'our domestic arrangements are, to say
the truth, quite unprofessional altogether, my dear Copperfield.
Even Sophy's being here, is unprofessional. And we have no other
place of abode. We have put to sea in a cockboat, but we are quite
prepared to rough it. And Sophy's an extraordinary manager! You'll
be surprised how those girls are stowed away. I am sure I hardly
know how it's done!'

'Are many of the young ladies with you?' I inquired.

'The eldest, the Beauty is here,' said Traddles, in a low
confidential voice, 'Caroline. And Sarah's here - the one I
mentioned to you as having something the matter with her spine, you
know. Immensely better! And the two youngest that Sophy educated
are with us. And Louisa's here.'

'Indeed!' cried I.

'Yes,' said Traddles. 'Now the whole set - I mean the chambers -
is only three rooms; but Sophy arranges for the girls in the most
wonderful way, and they sleep as comfortably as possible. Three in
that room,' said Traddles, pointing. 'Two in that.'

I could not help glancing round, in search of the accommodation
remaining for Mr. and Mrs. Traddles. Traddles understood me.

'Well!' said Traddles, 'we are prepared to rough it, as I said just
now, and we did improvise a bed last week, upon the floor here.
But there's a little room in the roof - a very nice room, when
you're up there - which Sophy papered herself, to surprise me; and
that's our room at present. It's a capital little gipsy sort of
place. There's quite a view from it.'

'And you are happily married at last, my dear Traddles!' said I.
'How rejoiced I am!'

'Thank you, my dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, as we shook hands
once more. 'Yes, I am as happy as it's possible to be. There's
your old friend, you see,' said Traddles, nodding triumphantly at
the flower-pot and stand; 'and there's the table with the marble
top! All the other furniture is plain and serviceable, you
perceive. And as to plate, Lord bless you, we haven't so much as
a tea-spoon.'

'All to be earned?' said I, cheerfully.

'Exactly so,' replied Traddles, 'all to be earned. Of course we
have something in the shape of tea-spoons, because we stir our tea.
But they're Britannia metal."

'The silver will be the brighter when it comes,' said I.

'The very thing we say!' cried Traddles. 'You see, my dear
Copperfield,' falling again into the low confidential tone, 'after
I had delivered my argument in DOE dem. JIPES versus WIGZIELL,
which did me great service with the profession, I went down into
Devonshire, and had some serious conversation in private with the
Reverend Horace. I dwelt upon the fact that Sophy - who I do
assure you, Copperfield, is the dearest girl! -'

'I am certain she is!' said I.

'She is, indeed!' rejoined Traddles. 'But I am afraid I am
wandering from the subject. Did I mention the Reverend Horace?'

'You said that you dwelt upon the fact -'

'True! Upon the fact that Sophy and I had been engaged for a long
period, and that Sophy, with the permission of her parents, was
more than content to take me - in short,' said Traddles, with his
old frank smile, 'on our present Britannia-metal footing. Very
well. I then proposed to the Reverend Horace - who is a most
excellent clergyman, Copperfield, and ought to be a Bishop; or at
least ought to have enough to live upon, without pinching himself
- that if I could turn the corner, say of two hundred and fifty
pounds, in one year; and could see my way pretty clearly to that,
or something better, next year; and could plainly furnish a little
place like this, besides; then, and in that case, Sophy and I
should be united. I took the liberty of representing that we had
been patient for a good many years; and that the circumstance of
Sophy's being extraordinarily useful at home, ought not to operate
with her affectionate parents, against her establishment in life -
don't you see?'

'Certainly it ought not,' said I.

'I am glad you think so, Copperfield,' rejoined Traddles, 'because,
without any imputation on the Reverend Horace, I do think parents,
and brothers, and so forth, are sometimes rather selfish in such
cases. Well! I also pointed out, that my most earnest desire was,
to be useful to the family; and that if I got on in the world, and
anything should happen to him - I refer to the Reverend Horace -'

'I understand,' said I.

'- Or to Mrs. Crewler - it would be the utmost gratification of my
wishes, to be a parent to the girls. He replied in a most
admirable manner, exceedingly flattering to my feelings, and
undertook to obtain the consent of Mrs. Crewler to this
arrangement. They had a dreadful time of it with her. It mounted
from her legs into her chest, and then into her head -'

'What mounted?' I asked.

'Her grief,' replied Traddles, with a serious look. 'Her feelings
generally. As I mentioned on a former occasion, she is a very
superior woman, but has lost the use of her limbs. Whatever occurs
to harass her, usually settles in her legs; but on this occasion it
mounted to the chest, and then to the head, and, in short, pervaded
the whole system in a most alarming manner. However, they brought
her through it by unremitting and affectionate attention; and we
were married yesterday six weeks. You have no idea what a Monster
I felt, Copperfield, when I saw the whole family crying and
fainting away in every direction! Mrs. Crewler couldn't see me
before we left - couldn't forgive me, then, for depriving her of
her child - but she is a good creature, and has done so since. I
had a delightful letter from her, only this morning.'

'And in short, my dear friend,' said I, 'you feel as blest as you
deserve to feel!'

'Oh! That's your partiality!' laughed Traddles. 'But, indeed, I am
in a most enviable state. I work hard, and read Law insatiably.
I get up at five every morning, and don't mind it at all. I hide
the girls in the daytime, and make merry with them in the evening.
And I assure you I am quite sorry that they are going home on
Tuesday, which is the day before the first day of Michaelmas Term.
But here,' said Traddles, breaking off in his confidence, and
speaking aloud, 'ARE the girls! Mr. Copperfield, Miss Crewler -
Miss Sarah - Miss Louisa - Margaret and Lucy!'

They were a perfect nest of roses; they looked so wholesome and
fresh. They were all pretty, and Miss Caroline was very handsome;
but there was a loving, cheerful, fireside quality in Sophy's
bright looks, which was better than that, and which assured me that
my friend had chosen well. We all sat round the fire; while the
sharp boy, who I now divined had lost his breath in putting the
papers out, cleared them away again, and produced the tea-things.
After that, he retired for the night, shutting the outer door upon
us with a bang. Mrs. Traddles, with perfect pleasure and composure
beaming from her household eyes, having made the tea, then quietly
made the toast as she sat in a corner by the fire.

She had seen Agnes, she told me while she was toasting. 'Tom' had
taken her down into Kent for a wedding trip, and there she had seen
my aunt, too; and both my aunt and Agnes were well, and they had
all talked of nothing but me. 'Tom' had never had me out of his
thoughts, she really believed, all the time I had been away. 'Tom'
was the authority for everything. 'Tom' was evidently the idol of
her life; never to be shaken on his pedestal by any commotion;
always to be believed in, and done homage to with the whole faith
of her heart, come what might.

The deference which both she and Traddles showed towards the
Beauty, pleased me very much. I don't know that I thought it very
reasonable; but I thought it very delightful, and essentially a
part of their character. If Traddles ever for an instant missed
the tea-spoons that were still to be won, I have no doubt it was
when he handed the Beauty her tea. If his sweet-tempered wife
could have got up any self-assertion against anyone, I am satisfied
it could only have been because she was the Beauty's sister. A few
slight indications of a rather petted and capricious manner, which
I observed in the Beauty, were manifestly considered, by Traddles
and his wife, as her birthright and natural endowment. If she had
been born a Queen Bee, and they labouring Bees, they could not have
been more satisfied of that.

But their self-forgetfulness charmed me. Their pride in these
girls, and their submission of themselves to all their whims, was
the pleasantest little testimony to their own worth I could have
desired to see. If Traddles were addressed as 'a darling', once in
the course of that evening; and besought to bring something here,
or carry something there, or take something up, or put something
down, or find something, or fetch something, he was so addressed,
by one or other of his sisters-in-law, at least twelve times in an
hour. Neither could they do anything without Sophy. Somebody's
hair fell down, and nobody but Sophy could put it up. Somebody
forgot how a particular tune went, and nobody but Sophy could hum
that tune right. Somebody wanted to recall the name of a place in
Devonshire, and only Sophy knew it. Something was wanted to be
written home, and Sophy alone could be trusted to write before
breakfast in the morning. Somebody broke down in a piece of
knitting, and no one but Sophy was able to put the defaulter in the
right direction. They were entire mistresses of the place, and
Sophy and Traddles waited on them. How many children Sophy could
have taken care of in her time, I can't imagine; but she seemed to
be famous for knowing every sort of song that ever was addressed to
a child in the English tongue; and she sang dozens to order with
the clearest little voice in the world, one after another (every
sister issuing directions for a different tune, and the Beauty
generally striking in last), so that I was quite fascinated. The
best of all was, that, in the midst of their exactions, all the
sisters had a great tenderness and respect both for Sophy and
Traddles. I am sure, when I took my leave, and Traddles was coming
out to walk with me to the coffee-house, I thought I had never seen
an obstinate head of hair, or any other head of hair, rolling about
in such a shower of kisses.

Altogether, it was a scene I could not help dwelling on with
pleasure, for a long time after I got back and had wished Traddles
good night. If I had beheld a thousand roses blowing in a top set
of chambers, in that withered Gray's Inn, they could not have
brightened it half so much. The idea of those Devonshire girls,
among the dry law-stationers and the attorneys' offices; and of the
tea and toast, and children's songs, in that grim atmosphere of
pounce and parchment, red-tape, dusty wafers, ink-jars, brief and
draft paper, law reports, writs, declarations, and bills of costs;
seemed almost as pleasantly fanciful as if I had dreamed that the
Sultan's famous family had been admitted on the roll of attorneys,
and had brought the talking bird, the singing tree, and the golden
water into Gray's Inn Hall. Somehow, I found that I had taken
leave of Traddles for the night, and come back to the coffee-house,
with a great change in my despondency about him. I began to think
he would get on, in spite of all the many orders of chief waiters
in England.

Drawing a chair before one of the coffee-room fires to think about
him at my leisure, I gradually fell from the consideration of his
happiness to tracing prospects in the live-coals, and to thinking,
as they broke and changed, of the principal vicissitudes and
separations that had marked my life. I had not seen a coal fire,
since I had left England three years ago: though many a wood fire
had I watched, as it crumbled into hoary ashes, and mingled with
the feathery heap upon the hearth, which not inaptly figured to me,
in my despondency, my own dead hopes.

I could think of the past now, gravely, but not bitterly; and could
contemplate the future in a brave spirit. Home, in its best sense,
was for me no more. She in whom I might have inspired a dearer
love, I had taught to be my sister. She would marry, and would
have new claimants on her tenderness; and in doing it, would never
know the love for her that had grown up in my heart. It was right
that I should pay the forfeit of my headlong passion. What I
reaped, I had sown.

I was thinking. And had I truly disciplined my heart to this, and
could I resolutely bear it, and calmly hold the place in her home
which she had calmly held in mine, - when I found my eyes resting
on a countenance that might have arisen out of the fire, in its
association with my early remembrances.

Little Mr. Chillip the Doctor, to whose good offices I was indebted
in the very first chapter of this history, sat reading a newspaper
in the shadow of an opposite corner. He was tolerably stricken in
years by this time; but, being a mild, meek, calm little man, had
worn so easily, that I thought he looked at that moment just as he
might have looked when he sat in our parlour, waiting for me to be
born.

Mr. Chillip had left Blunderstone six or seven years ago, and I had
never seen him since. He sat placidly perusing the newspaper, with
his little head on one side, and a glass of warm sherry negus at
his elbow. He was so extremely conciliatory in his manner that he
seemed to apologize to the very newspaper for taking the liberty of
reading it.

I walked up to where he was sitting, and said, 'How do you do, Mr.
Chillip?'

He was greatly fluttered by this unexpected address from a
stranger, and replied, in his slow way, 'I thank you, sir, you are
very good. Thank you, sir. I hope YOU are well.'

'You don't remember me?' said I.

'Well, sir,' returned Mr. Chillip, smiling very meekly, and shaking
his head as he surveyed me, 'I have a kind of an impression that
something in your countenance is familiar to me, sir; but I
couldn't lay my hand upon your name, really.'

'And yet you knew it, long before I knew it myself,' I returned.

'Did I indeed, sir?' said Mr. Chillip. 'Is it possible that I had
the honour, sir, of officiating when -?'

'Yes,' said I.

'Dear me!' cried Mr. Chillip. 'But no doubt you are a good deal
changed since then, sir?'

'Probably,' said I.

'Well, sir,' observed Mr. Chillip, 'I hope you'll excuse me, if I
am compelled to ask the favour of your name?'

On my telling him my name, he was really moved. He quite shook
hands with me - which was a violent proceeding for him, his usual
course being to slide a tepid little fish-slice, an inch or two in
advance of his hip, and evince the greatest discomposure when
anybody grappled with it. Even now, he put his hand in his
coat-pocket as soon as he could disengage it, and seemed relieved
when he had got it safe back.

'Dear me, sir!' said Mr. Chillip, surveying me with his head on one
side. 'And it's Mr. Copperfield, is it? Well, sir, I think I
should have known you, if I had taken the liberty of looking more
closely at you. There's a strong resemblance between you and your
poor father, sir.'

'I never had the happiness of seeing my father,' I observed.

'Very true, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, in a soothing tone. 'And very
much to be deplored it was, on all accounts! We are not ignorant,
sir,' said Mr. Chillip, slowly shaking his little head again, 'down
in our part of the country, of your fame. There must be great
excitement here, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, tapping himself on the
forehead with his forefinger. 'You must find it a trying
occupation, sir!'

'What is your part of the country now?' I asked, seating myself
near him.

'I am established within a few miles of Bury St. Edmund's, sir,'
said Mr. Chillip. 'Mrs. Chillip, coming into a little property in
that neighbourhood, under her father's will, I bought a practice
down there, in which you will be glad to hear I am doing well. My
daughter is growing quite a tall lass now, sir,' said Mr. Chillip,
giving his little head another little shake. 'Her mother let down
two tucks in her frocks only last week. Such is time, you see,
sir!'

As the little man put his now empty glass to his lips, when he made
this reflection, I proposed to him to have it refilled, and I would
keep him company with another. 'Well, sir,' he returned, in his
slow way, 'it's more than I am accustomed to; but I can't deny
myself the pleasure of your conversation. It seems but yesterday
that I had the honour of attending you in the measles. You came
through them charmingly, sir!'

I acknowledged this compliment, and ordered the negus, which was
soon produced. 'Quite an uncommon dissipation!' said Mr. Chillip,
stirring it, 'but I can't resist so extraordinary an occasion. You
have no family, sir?'

I shook my head.

'I was aware that you sustained a bereavement, sir, some time ago,'
said Mr. Chillip. 'I heard it from your father-in-law's sister.
Very decided character there, sir?'

'Why, yes,' said I, 'decided enough. Where did you see her, Mr.
Chillip?'

'Are you not aware, sir,' returned Mr. Chillip, with his placidest
smile, 'that your father-in-law is again a neighbour of mine?'

'No,' said I.

'He is indeed, sir!' said Mr. Chillip. 'Married a young lady of
that part, with a very good little property, poor thing. - And
this action of the brain now, sir? Don't you find it fatigue you?'
said Mr. Chillip, looking at me like an admiring Robin.

I waived that question, and returned to the Murdstones. 'I was
aware of his being married again. Do you attend the family?' I
asked.

'Not regularly. I have been called in,' he replied. 'Strong
phrenological developments of the organ of firmness, in Mr.
Murdstone and his sister, sir.'

I replied with such an expressive look, that Mr. Chillip was
emboldened by that, and the negus together, to give his head
several short shakes, and thoughtfully exclaim, 'Ah, dear me! We
remember old times, Mr. Copperfield!'

'And the brother and sister are pursuing their old course, are
they?' said I.

'Well, sir,' replied Mr. Chillip, 'a medical man, being so much in
families, ought to have neither eyes nor ears for anything but his
profession. Still, I must say, they are very severe, sir: both as
to this life and the next.'

'The next will be regulated without much reference to them, I dare
say,' I returned: 'what are they doing as to this?'

Mr. Chillip shook his head, stirred his negus, and sipped it.

'She was a charming woman, sir!' he observed in a plaintive manner.

'The present Mrs. Murdstone?'

A charming woman indeed, sir,' said Mr. Chillip; 'as amiable, I am
sure, as it was possible to be! Mrs. Chillip's opinion is, that her
spirit has been entirely broken since her marriage, and that she is
all but melancholy mad. And the ladies,' observed Mr. Chillip,
timorously, 'are great observers, sir.'

'I suppose she was to be subdued and broken to their detestable
mould, Heaven help her!' said I. 'And she has been.'

'Well, sir, there were violent quarrels at first, I assure you,'
said Mr. Chillip; 'but she is quite a shadow now. Would it be
considered forward if I was to say to you, sir, in confidence, that
since the sister came to help, the brother and sister between them
have nearly reduced her to a state of imbecility?'

I told him I could easily believe it.

'I have no hesitation in saying,' said Mr. Chillip, fortifying
himself with another sip of negus, 'between you and me, sir, that
her mother died of it - or that tyranny, gloom, and worry have made
Mrs. Murdstone nearly imbecile. She was a lively young woman, sir,
before marriage, and their gloom and austerity destroyed her. They
go about with her, now, more like her keepers than her husband and
sister-in-law. That was Mrs. Chillip's remark to me, only last
week. And I assure you, sir, the ladies are great observers. Mrs.
Chillip herself is a great observer!'

'Does he gloomily profess to be (I am ashamed to use the word in
such association) religious still?' I inquired.

'You anticipate, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, his eyelids getting quite
red with the unwonted stimulus in which he was indulging. 'One of
Mrs. Chillip's most impressive remarks. Mrs. Chillip,' he
proceeded, in the calmest and slowest manner, 'quite electrified
me, by pointing out that Mr. Murdstone sets up an image of himself,
and calls it the Divine Nature. You might have knocked me down on
the flat of my back, sir, with the feather of a pen, I assure you,
when Mrs. Chillip said so. The ladies are great observers, sir?'

'Intuitively,' said I, to his extreme delight.

'I am very happy to receive such support in my opinion, sir,' he
rejoined. 'It is not often that I venture to give a non-medical
opinion, I assure you. Mr. Murdstone delivers public addresses
sometimes, and it is said, - in short, sir, it is said by Mrs.
Chillip, - that the darker tyrant he has lately been, the more
ferocious is his doctrine.'

'I believe Mrs. Chillip to be perfectly right,' said I.

'Mrs. Chillip does go so far as to say,' pursued the meekest of
little men, much encouraged, 'that what such people miscall their
religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance. And do
you know I must say, sir,' he continued, mildly laying his head on
one side, 'that I DON'T find authority for Mr. and Miss Murdstone
in the New Testament?'

'I never found it either!' said I.

'In the meantime, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, 'they are much disliked;
and as they are very free in consigning everybody who dislikes them
to perdition, we really have a good deal of perdition going on in
our neighbourhood! However, as Mrs. Chillip says, sir, they undergo
a continual punishment; for they are turned inward, to feed upon
their own hearts, and their own hearts are very bad feeding. Now,
sir, about that brain of yours, if you'll excuse my returning to
it. Don't you expose it to a good deal of excitement, sir?'

I found it not difficult, in the excitement of Mr. Chillip's own
brain, under his potations of negus, to divert his attention from
this topic to his own affairs, on which, for the next half-hour, he
was quite loquacious; giving me to understand, among other pieces
of information, that he was then at the Gray's Inn Coffee-house to
lay his professional evidence before a Commission of Lunacy,
touching the state of mind of a patient who had become deranged
from excessive drinking.
'And I assure you, sir,' he said, 'I am extremely nervous on such
occasions. I could not support being what is called Bullied, sir.
It would quite unman me. Do you know it was some time before I
recovered the conduct of that alarming lady, on the night of your
birth, Mr. Copperfield?'

I told him that I was going down to my aunt, the Dragon of that
night, early in the morning; and that she was one of the most
tender-hearted and excellent of women, as he would know full well
if he knew her better. The mere notion of the possibility of his
ever seeing her again, appeared to terrify him. He replied with a
small pale smile, 'Is she so, indeed, sir? Really?' and almost
immediately called for a candle, and went to bed, as if he were not
quite safe anywhere else. He did not actually stagger under the
negus; but I should think his placid little pulse must have made
two or three more beats in a minute, than it had done since the
great night of my aunt's disappointment, when she struck at him
with her bonnet.

Thoroughly tired, I went to bed too, at midnight; passed the next
day on the Dover coach; burst safe and sound into my aunt's old
parlour while she was at tea (she wore spectacles now); and was
received by her, and Mr. Dick, and dear old Peggotty, who acted as
housekeeper, with open arms and tears of joy. My aunt was mightily
amused, when we began to talk composedly, by my account of my
meeting with Mr. Chillip, and of his holding her in such dread
remembrance; and both she and Peggotty had a great deal to say
about my poor mother's second husband, and 'that murdering woman of
a sister', - on whom I think no pain or penalty would have induced
my aunt to bestow any Christian or Proper Name, or any other
designation.

CHAPTER 60
AGNES

My aunt and I, when we were left alone, talked far into the night.
How the emigrants never wrote home, otherwise than cheerfully and
hopefully; how Mr. Micawber had actually remitted divers small sums
of money, on account of those 'pecuniary liabilities', in reference
to which he had been so business-like as between man and man; how
Janet, returning into my aunt's service when she came back to
Dover, had finally carried out her renunciation of mankind by
entering into wedlock with a thriving tavern-keeper; and how my
aunt had finally set her seal on the same great principle, by
aiding and abetting the bride, and crowning the marriage-ceremony
with her presence; were among our topics - already more or less
familiar to me through the letters I had had. Mr. Dick, as usual,
was not forgotten. My aunt informed me how he incessantly occupied
himself in copying everything he could lay his hands on, and kept
King Charles the First at a respectful distance by that semblance
of employment; how it was one of the main joys and rewards of her
life that he was free and happy, instead of pining in monotonous
restraint; and how (as a novel general conclusion) nobody but she
could ever fully know what he was.

'And when, Trot,' said my aunt, patting the back of my hand, as we
sat in our old way before the fire, 'when are you going over to
Canterbury?'

'I shall get a horse, and ride over tomorrow morning, aunt, unless
you will go with me?'

'No!' said my aunt, in her short abrupt way. 'I mean to stay where
I am.'

Then, I should ride, I said. I could not have come through
Canterbury today without stopping, if I had been coming to anyone
but her.

She was pleased, but answered, 'Tut, Trot; MY old bones would have
kept till tomorrow!' and softly patted my hand again, as I sat
looking thoughtfully at the fire.

Thoughtfully, for I could not be here once more, and so near Agnes,
without the revival of those regrets with which I had so long been
occupied. Softened regrets they might be, teaching me what I had
failed to learn when my younger life was all before me, but not the
less regrets. 'Oh, Trot,' I seemed to hear my aunt say once more;
and I understood her better now - 'Blind, blind, blind!'

We both kept silence for some minutes. When I raised my eyes, I
found that she was steadily observant of me. Perhaps she had
followed the current of my mind; for it seemed to me an easy one to
track now, wilful as it had been once.

'You will find her father a white-haired old man,' said my aunt,
'though a better man in all other respects - a reclaimed man.
Neither will you find him measuring all human interests, and joys,
and sorrows, with his one poor little inch-rule now. Trust me,
child, such things must shrink very much, before they can be
measured off in that way.'

'Indeed they must,' said I.

'You will find her,' pursued my aunt, 'as good, as beautiful, as
earnest, as disinterested, as she has always been. If I knew
higher praise, Trot, I would bestow it on her.'

There was no higher praise for her; no higher reproach for me. Oh,
how had I strayed so far away!

'If she trains the young girls whom she has about her, to be like
herself,' said my aunt, earnest even to the filling of her eyes
with tears, 'Heaven knows, her life will be well employed! Useful
and happy, as she said that day! How could she be otherwise than
useful and happy!'

'Has Agnes any -' I was thinking aloud, rather than speaking.

'Well? Hey? Any what?' said my aunt, sharply.

'Any lover,' said I.

'A score,' cried my aunt, with a kind of indignant pride. 'She
might have married twenty times, my dear, since you have been
gone!'

'No doubt,' said I. 'No doubt. But has she any lover who is
worthy of her? Agnes could care for no other.'

My aunt sat musing for a little while, with her chin upon her hand.
Slowly raising her eyes to mine, she said:

'I suspect she has an attachment, Trot.'

'A prosperous one?' said I.

'Trot,' returned my aunt gravely, 'I can't say. I have no right to
tell you even so much. She has never confided it to me, but I
suspect it.'

She looked so attentively and anxiously at me (I even saw her
tremble), that I felt now, more than ever, that she had followed my
late thoughts. I summoned all the resolutions I had made, in all
those many days and nights, and all those many conflicts of my
heart.

'If it should be so,' I began, 'and I hope it is-'

'I don't know that it is,' said my aunt curtly. 'You must not be
ruled by my suspicions. You must keep them secret. They are very
slight, perhaps. I have no right to speak.'

'If it should be so,' I repeated, 'Agnes will tell me at her own
good time. A sister to whom I have confided so much, aunt, will
not be reluctant to confide in me.'

My aunt withdrew her eyes from mine, as slowly as she had turned
them upon me; and covered them thoughtfully with her hand. By and
by she put her other hand on my shoulder; and so we both sat,
looking into the past, without saying another word, until we parted
for the night.

I rode away, early in the morning, for the scene of my old
school-days. I cannot say that I was yet quite happy, in the hope
that I was gaining a victory over myself; even in the prospect of
so soon looking on her face again.

The well-remembered ground was soon traversed, and I came into the
quiet streets, where every stone was a boy's book to me. I went on
foot to the old house, and went away with a heart too full to
enter. I returned; and looking, as I passed, through the low
window of the turret-room where first Uriah Heep, and afterwards
Mr. Micawber, had been wont to sit, saw that it was a little
parlour now, and that there was no office. Otherwise the staid old
house was, as to its cleanliness and order, still just as it had
been when I first saw it. I requested the new maid who admitted
me, to tell Miss Wickfield that a gentleman who waited on her from
a friend abroad, was there; and I was shown up the grave old
staircase (cautioned of the steps I knew so well), into the
unchanged drawing-room. The books that Agnes and I had read
together, were on their shelves; and the desk where I had laboured
at my lessons, many a night, stood yet at the same old corner of
the table. All the little changes that had crept in when the Heeps
were there, were changed again. Everything was as it used to be,
in the happy time.

I stood in a window, and looked across the ancient street at the
opposite houses, recalling how I had watched them on wet
afternoons, when I first came there; and how I had used to
speculate about the people who appeared at any of the windows, and
had followed them with my eyes up and down stairs, while women went
clicking along the pavement in pattens, and the dull rain fell in
slanting lines, and poured out of the water-spout yonder, and
flowed into the road. The feeling with which I used to watch the
tramps, as they came into the town on those wet evenings, at dusk,
and limped past, with their bundles drooping over their shoulders
at the ends of sticks, came freshly back to me; fraught, as then,
with the smell of damp earth, and wet leaves and briar, and the
sensation of the very airs that blew upon me in my own toilsome
journey.

The opening of the little door in the panelled wall made me start
and turn. Her beautiful serene eyes met mine as she came towards
me. She stopped and laid her hand upon her bosom, and I caught her
in my arms.

'Agnes! my dear girl! I have come too suddenly upon you.'

'No, no! I am so rejoiced to see you, Trotwood!'

'Dear Agnes, the happiness it is to me, to see you once again!'

I folded her to my heart, and, for a little while, we were both
silent. Presently we sat down, side by side; and her angel-face
was turned upon me with the welcome I had dreamed of, waking and
sleeping, for whole years.

She was so true, she was so beautiful, she was so good, - I owed
her so much gratitude, she was so dear to me, that I could find no
utterance for what I felt. I tried to bless her, tried to thank
her, tried to tell her (as I had often done in letters) what an
influence she had upon me; but all my efforts were in vain. My
love and joy were dumb.

With her own sweet tranquillity, she calmed my agitation; led me
back to the time of our parting; spoke to me of Emily, whom she had
visited, in secret, many times; spoke to me tenderly of Dora's
grave. With the unerring instinct of her noble heart, she touched
the chords of my memory so softly and harmoniously, that not one
jarred within me; I could listen to the sorrowful, distant music,
and desire to shrink from nothing it awoke. How could I, when,
blended with it all, was her dear self, the better angel of my
life?

'And you, Agnes,' I said, by and by. 'Tell me of yourself. You
have hardly ever told me of your own life, in all this lapse of
time!'

'What should I tell?' she answered, with her radiant smile. 'Papa
is well. You see us here, quiet in our own home; our anxieties set
at rest, our home restored to us; and knowing that, dear Trotwood,
you know all.'

'All, Agnes?' said I.

She looked at me, with some fluttering wonder in her face.

'Is there nothing else, Sister?' I said.

Her colour, which had just now faded, returned, and faded again.
She smiled; with a quiet sadness, I thought; and shook her head.

I had sought to lead her to what my aunt had hinted at; for,
sharply painful to me as it must be to receive that confidence, I
was to discipline my heart, and do my duty to her. I saw, however,
that she was uneasy, and I let it pass.

'You have much to do, dear Agnes?'

'With my school?' said she, looking up again, in all her bright
composure.

'Yes. It is laborious, is it not?'

'The labour is so pleasant,' she returned, 'that it is scarcely
grateful in me to call it by that name.'

'Nothing good is difficult to you,' said I.

Her colour came and went once more; and once more, as she bent her
head, I saw the same sad smile.

'You will wait and see papa,' said Agnes, cheerfully, 'and pass the
day with us? Perhaps you will sleep in your own room? We always
call it yours.'

I could not do that, having promised to ride back to my aunt's at
night; but I would pass the day there, joyfully.

'I must be a prisoner for a little while,' said Agnes, 'but here
are the old books, Trotwood, and the old music.'

'Even the old flowers are here,' said I, looking round; 'or the old
kinds.'

'I have found a pleasure,' returned Agnes, smiling, 'while you have
been absent, in keeping everything as it used to be when we were
children. For we were very happy then, I think.'

'Heaven knows we were!' said I.

'And every little thing that has reminded me of my brother,' said
Agnes, with her cordial eyes turned cheerfully upon me, 'has been
a welcome companion. Even this,' showing me the basket-trifle,
full of keys, still hanging at her side, 'seems to jingle a kind of
old tune!'

She smiled again, and went out at the door by which she had come.

It was for me to guard this sisterly affection with religious care.
It was all that I had left myself, and it was a treasure. If I
once shook the foundations of the sacred confidence and usage, in
virtue of which it was given to me, it was lost, and could never be
recovered. I set this steadily before myself. The better I loved
her, the more it behoved me never to forget it.

I walked through the streets; and, once more seeing my old
adversary the butcher - now a constable, with his staff hanging up
in the shop - went down to look at the place where I had fought
him; and there meditated on Miss Shepherd and the eldest Miss
Larkins, and all the idle loves and likings, and dislikings, of
that time. Nothing seemed to have survived that time but Agnes;
and she, ever a star above me, was brighter and higher.

When I returned, Mr. Wickfield had come home, from a garden he had,
a couple of miles or so out of town, where he now employed himself
almost every day. I found him as my aunt had described him. We
sat down to dinner, with some half-dozen little girls; and he
seemed but the shadow of his handsome picture on the wall.

The tranquillity and peace belonging, of old, to that quiet ground
in my memory, pervaded it again. When dinner was done, Mr.
Wickfield taking no wine, and I desiring none, we went up-stairs;
where Agnes and her little charges sang and played, and worked.
After tea the children left us; and we three sat together, talking
of the bygone days.

'My part in them,' said Mr. Wickfield, shaking his white head, 'has
much matter for regret - for deep regret, and deep contrition,
Trotwood, you well know. But I would not cancel it, if it were in
my power.'

I could readily believe that, looking at the face beside him.

'I should cancel with it,' he pursued, 'such patience and devotion,
such fidelity, such a child's love, as I must not forget, no! even
to forget myself.'

'I understand you, sir,' I softly said. 'I hold it - I have always
held it - in veneration.'

'But no one knows, not even you,' he returned, 'how much she has
done, how much she has undergone, how hard she has striven. Dear
Agnes!'

She had put her hand entreatingly on his arm, to stop him; and was
very, very pale.

'Well, well!' he said with a sigh, dismissing, as I then saw, some
trial she had borne, or was yet to bear, in connexion with what my
aunt had told me. 'Well! I have never told you, Trotwood, of her
mother. Has anyone?'

'Never, sir.'

'It's not much - though it was much to suffer. She married me in
opposition to her father's wish, and he renounced her. She prayed
him to forgive her, before my Agnes came into this world. He was
a very hard man, and her mother had long been dead. He repulsed
her. He broke her heart.'

Agnes leaned upon his shoulder, and stole her arm about his neck.

'She had an affectionate and gentle heart,' he said; 'and it was
broken. I knew its tender nature very well. No one could, if I
did not. She loved me dearly, but was never happy. She was always
labouring, in secret, under this distress; and being delicate and
downcast at the time of his last repulse - for it was not the
first, by many - pined away and died. She left me Agnes, two weeks
old; and the grey hair that you recollect me with, when you first
came.' He kissed Agnes on her cheek.

'My love for my dear child was a diseased love, but my mind was all
unhealthy then. I say no more of that. I am not speaking of
myself, Trotwood, but of her mother, and of her. If I give you any
clue to what I am, or to what I have been, you will unravel it, I
know. What Agnes is, I need not say. I have always read something
of her poor mother's story, in her character; and so I tell it you
tonight, when we three are again together, after such great
changes. I have told it all.'

His bowed head, and her angel-face and filial duty, derived a more
pathetic meaning from it than they had had before. If I had wanted
anything by which to mark this night of our re-union, I should have
found it in this.

Agnes rose up from her father's side, before long; and going softly
to her piano, played some of the old airs to which we had often
listened in that place.

'Have you any intention of going away again?' Agnes asked me, as I
was standing by.

'What does my sister say to that?'

'I hope not.'

'Then I have no such intention, Agnes.'

'I think you ought not, Trotwood, since you ask me,' she said,
mildly. 'Your growing reputation and success enlarge your power of
doing good; and if I could spare my brother,' with her eyes upon
me, 'perhaps the time could not.'

'What I am, you have made me, Agnes. You should know best.'

'I made you, Trotwood?'

'Yes! Agnes, my dear girl!' I said, bending over her. 'I tried to
tell you, when we met today, something that has been in my thoughts
since Dora died. You remember, when you came down to me in our
little room - pointing upward, Agnes?'

'Oh, Trotwood!' she returned, her eyes filled with tears. 'So
loving, so confiding, and so young! Can I ever forget?'

'As you were then, my sister, I have often thought since, you have
ever been to me. Ever pointing upward, Agnes; ever leading me to
something better; ever directing me to higher things!'

She only shook her head; through her tears I saw the same sad quiet
smile.

'And I am so grateful to you for it, Agnes, so bound to you, that
there is no name for the affection of my heart. I want you to
know, yet don't know how to tell you, that all my life long I shall
look up to you, and be guided by you, as I have been through the
darkness that is past. Whatever betides, whatever new ties you may
form, whatever changes may come between us, I shall always look to
you, and love you, as I do now, and have always done. You will
always be my solace and resource, as you have always been. Until
I die, my dearest sister, I shall see you always before me,
pointing upward!'

She put her hand in mine, and told me she was proud of me, and of
what I said; although I praised her very far beyond her worth.
Then she went on softly playing, but without removing her eyes from
me.
'Do you know, what I have heard tonight, Agnes,' said I, strangely
seems to be a part of the feeling with which I regarded you when I
saw you first - with which I sat beside you in my rough
school-days?'

'You knew I had no mother,' she replied with a smile, 'and felt
kindly towards me.'

'More than that, Agnes, I knew, almost as if I had known this
story, that there was something inexplicably gentle and softened,
surrounding you; something that might have been sorrowful in
someone else (as I can now understand it was), but was not so in
you.'

She softly played on, looking at me still.

'Will you laugh at my cherishing such fancies, Agnes?'

'No!'

'Or at my saying that I really believe I felt, even then, that you
could be faithfully affectionate against all discouragement, and
never cease to be so, until you ceased to live? - Will you laugh
at such a dream?'

'Oh, no! Oh, no!'

For an instant, a distressful shadow crossed her face; but, even in
the start it gave me, it was gone; and she was playing on, and
looking at me with her own calm smile.

As I rode back in the lonely night, the wind going by me like a
restless memory, I thought of this, and feared she was not happy.
I was not happy; but, thus far, I had faithfully set the seal upon
the Past, and, thinking of her, pointing upward, thought of her as
pointing to that sky above me, where, in the mystery to come, I
might yet love her with a love unknown on earth, and tell her what
the strife had been within me when I loved her here.

CHAPTER 61
I AM SHOWN TWO INTERESTING PENITENTS

For a time - at all events until my book should be completed, which
would be the work of several months - I took up my abode in my
aunt's house at Dover; and there, sitting in the window from which
I had looked out at the moon upon the sea, when that roof first
gave me shelter, I quietly pursued my task.

In pursuance of my intention of referring to my own fictions only
when their course should incidentally connect itself with the
progress of my story, I do not enter on the aspirations, the
delights, anxieties, and triumphs of my art. That I truly devoted
myself to it with my strongest earnestness, and bestowed upon it
every energy of my soul, I have already said. If the books I have
written be of any worth, they will supply the rest. I shall
otherwise have written to poor purpose, and the rest will be of
interest to no one.

Occasionally, I went to London; to lose myself in the swarm of life
there, or to consult with Traddles on some business point. He had
managed for me, in my absence, with the soundest judgement; and my
worldly affairs were prospering. As my notoriety began to bring
upon me an enormous quantity of letters from people of whom I had
no knowledge - chiefly about nothing, and extremely difficult to
answer - I agreed with Traddles to have my name painted up on his
door. There, the devoted postman on that beat delivered bushels of
letters for me; and there, at intervals, I laboured through them,
like a Home Secretary of State without the salary.

Among this correspondence, there dropped in, every now and then, an
obliging proposal from one of the numerous outsiders always lurking
about the Commons, to practise under cover of my name (if I would
take the necessary steps remaining to make a proctor of myself),
and pay me a percentage on the profits. But I declined these
offers; being already aware that there were plenty of such covert
practitioners in existence, and considering the Commons quite bad
enough, without my doing anything to make it worse.

The girls had gone home, when my name burst into bloom on
Traddles's door; and the sharp boy looked, all day, as if he had
never heard of Sophy, shut up in a back room, glancing down from
her work into a sooty little strip of garden with a pump in it.
But there I always found her, the same bright housewife; often
humming her Devonshire ballads when no strange foot was coming up
the stairs, and blunting the sharp boy in his official closet with
melody.

I wondered, at first, why I so often found Sophy writing in a
copy-book; and why she always shut it up when I appeared, and
hurried it into the table-drawer. But the secret soon came out.
One day, Traddles (who had just come home through the drizzling
sleet from Court) took a paper out of his desk, and asked me what
I thought of that handwriting?

'Oh, DON'T, Tom!' cried Sophy, who was warming his slippers before
the fire.

'My dear,' returned Tom, in a delighted state, 'why not? What do
you say to that writing, Copperfield?'

'It's extraordinarily legal and formal,' said I. 'I don't think I
ever saw such a stiff hand.'

'Not like a lady's hand, is it?' said Traddles.

'A lady's!' I repeated. 'Bricks and mortar are more like a lady's
hand!'

Traddles broke into a rapturous laugh, and informed me that it was
Sophy's writing; that Sophy had vowed and declared he would need a
copying-clerk soon, and she would be that clerk; that she had
acquired this hand from a pattern; and that she could throw off -
I forget how many folios an hour. Sophy was very much confused by
my being told all this, and said that when 'Tom' was made a judge
he wouldn't be so ready to proclaim it. Which 'Tom' denied;
averring that he should always be equally proud of it, under all
circumstances.

'What a thoroughly good and charming wife she is, my dear
Traddles!' said I, when she had gone away, laughing.

'My dear Copperfield,' returned Traddles, 'she is, without any
exception, the dearest girl! The way she manages this place; her
punctuality, domestic knowledge, economy, and order; her
cheerfulness, Copperfield!'

'Indeed, you have reason to commend her!' I returned. 'You are a
happy fellow. I believe you make yourselves, and each other, two
of the happiest people in the world.'

'I am sure we ARE two of the happiest people,' returned Traddles.
'I admit that, at all events. Bless my soul, when I see her
getting up by candle-light on these dark mornings, busying herself
in the day's arrangements, going out to market before the clerks
come into the Inn, caring for no weather, devising the most capital
little dinners out of the plainest materials, making puddings and
pies, keeping everything in its right place, always so neat and
ornamental herself, sitting up at night with me if it's ever so
late, sweet-tempered and encouraging always, and all for me, I
positively sometimes can't believe it, Copperfield!'

He was tender of the very slippers she had been warming, as he put
them on, and stretched his feet enjoyingly upon the fender.

'I positively sometimes can't believe it,' said Traddles. 'Then
our pleasures! Dear me, they are inexpensive, but they are quite
wonderful! When we are at home here, of an evening, and shut the
outer door, and draw those curtains - which she made - where could
we be more snug? When it's fine, and we go out for a walk in the
evening, the streets abound in enjoyment for us. We look into the
glittering windows of the jewellers' shops; and I show Sophy which
of the diamond-eyed serpents, coiled up on white satin rising
grounds, I would give her if I could afford it; and Sophy shows me
which of the gold watches that are capped and jewelled and
engine-turned, and possessed of the horizontal lever-
escape-movement, and all sorts of things, she would buy for me if
she could afford it; and we pick out the spoons and forks,
fish-slices, butter-knives, and sugar-tongs, we should both prefer
if we could both afford it; and really we go away as if we had got
them! Then, when we stroll into the squares, and great streets, and
see a house to let, sometimes we look up at it, and say, how would
THAT do, if I was made a judge? And we parcel it out - such a room
for us, such rooms for the girls, and so forth; until we settle to
our satisfaction that it would do, or it wouldn't do, as the case
may be. Sometimes, we go at half-price to the pit of the theatre
- the very smell of which is cheap, in my opinion, at the money -
and there we thoroughly enjoy the play: which Sophy believes every
word of, and so do I. In walking home, perhaps we buy a little bit
of something at a cook's-shop, or a little lobster at the
fishmongers, and bring it here, and make a splendid supper,
chatting about what we have seen. Now, you know, Copperfield, if
I was Lord Chancellor, we couldn't do this!'

'You would do something, whatever you were, my dear Traddles,'
thought I, 'that would be pleasant and amiable. And by the way,'
I said aloud, 'I suppose you never draw any skeletons now?'

'Really,' replied Traddles, laughing, and reddening, 'I can't
wholly deny that I do, my dear Copperfield. For being in one of
the back rows of the King's Bench the other day, with a pen in my
hand, the fancy came into my head to try how I had preserved that
accomplishment. And I am afraid there's a skeleton - in a wig - on
the ledge of the desk.'

After we had both laughed heartily, Traddles wound up by looking
with a smile at the fire, and saying, in his forgiving way, 'Old
Creakle!'

'I have a letter from that old - Rascal here,' said I. For I never
was less disposed to forgive him the way he used to batter
Traddles, than when I saw Traddles so ready to forgive him himself.

'From Creakle the schoolmaster?' exclaimed Traddles. 'No!'

'Among the persons who are attracted to me in my rising fame and
fortune,' said I, looking over my letters, 'and who discover that
they were always much attached to me, is the self-same Creakle. He
is not a schoolmaster now, Traddles. He is retired. He is a
Middlesex Magistrate.'

I thought Traddles might be surprised to hear it, but he was not so
at all.

'How do you suppose he comes to be a Middlesex Magistrate?' said I.

'Oh dear me!' replied Traddles, 'it would be very difficult to
answer that question. Perhaps he voted for somebody, or lent money
to somebody, or bought something of somebody, or otherwise obliged
somebody, or jobbed for somebody, who knew somebody who got the
lieutenant of the county to nominate him for the commission.'

'On the commission he is, at any rate,' said I. 'And he writes to
me here, that he will be glad to show me, in operation, the only
true system of prison discipline; the only unchallengeable way of
making sincere and lasting converts and penitents - which, you
know, is by solitary confinement. What do you say?'

'To the system?' inquired Traddles, looking grave.

'No. To my accepting the offer, and your going with me?'

'I don't object,' said Traddles.

'Then I'll write to say so. You remember (to say nothing of our
treatment) this same Creakle turning his son out of doors, I
suppose, and the life he used to lead his wife and daughter?'

'Perfectly,' said Traddles.

'Yet, if you'll read his letter, you'll find he is the tenderest of
men to prisoners convicted of the whole calendar of felonies,' said
I; 'though I can't find that his tenderness extends to any other
class of created beings.'

Traddles shrugged his shoulders, and was not at all surprised. I
had not expected him to be, and was not surprised myself; or my
observation of similar practical satires would have been but
scanty. We arranged the time of our visit, and I wrote accordingly
to Mr. Creakle that evening.

On the appointed day - I think it was the next day, but no matter
- Traddles and I repaired to the prison where Mr. Creakle was
powerful. It was an immense and solid building, erected at a vast
expense. I could not help thinking, as we approached the gate,
what an uproar would have been made in the country, if any deluded
man had proposed to spend one half the money it had cost, on the
erection of an industrial school for the young, or a house of
refuge for the deserving old.

In an office that might have been on the ground-floor of the Tower
of Babel, it was so massively constructed, we were presented to our
old schoolmaster; who was one of a group, composed of two or three
of the busier sort of magistrates, and some visitors they had
brought. He received me, like a man who had formed my mind in
bygone years, and had always loved me tenderly. On my introducing
Traddles, Mr. Creakle expressed, in like manner, but in an inferior
degree, that he had always been Traddles's guide, philosopher, and
friend. Our venerable instructor was a great deal older, and not
improved in appearance. His face was as fiery as ever; his eyes
were as small, and rather deeper set. The scanty, wet-looking grey
hair, by which I remembered him, was almost gone; and the thick
veins in his bald head were none the more agreeable to look at.

After some conversation among these gentlemen, from which I might
have supposed that there was nothing in the world to be
legitimately taken into account but the supreme comfort of
prisoners, at any expense, and nothing on the wide earth to be done
outside prison-doors, we began our inspection. It being then just
dinner-time, we went, first into the great kitchen, where every
prisoner's dinner was in course of being set out separately (to be
handed to him in his cell), with the regularity and precision of
clock-work. I said aside, to Traddles, that I wondered whether it
occurred to anybody, that there was a striking contrast between
these plentiful repasts of choice quality, and the dinners, not to
say of paupers, but of soldiers, sailors, labourers, the great bulk
of the honest, working community; of whom not one man in five
hundred ever dined half so well. But I learned that the 'system'
required high living; and, in short, to dispose of the system, once
for all, I found that on that head and on all others, 'the system'
put an end to all doubts, and disposed of all anomalies. Nobody
appeared to have the least idea that there was any other system,
but THE system, to be considered.

As we were going through some of the magnificent passages, I
inquired of Mr. Creakle and his friends what were supposed to be
the main advantages of this all-governing and universally
over-riding system? I found them to be the perfect isolation of
prisoners - so that no one man in confinement there, knew anything
about another; and the reduction of prisoners to a wholesome state
of mind, leading to sincere contrition and repentance.

Now, it struck me, when we began to visit individuals in their
cells, and to traverse the passages in which those cells were, and
to have the manner of the going to chapel and so forth, explained
to us, that there was a strong probability of the prisoners knowing
a good deal about each other, and of their carrying on a pretty
complete system of intercourse. This, at the time I write, has
been proved, I believe, to be the case; but, as it would have been
flat blasphemy against the system to have hinted such a doubt then,
I looked out for the penitence as diligently as I could.

And here again, I had great misgivings. I found as prevalent a
fashion in the form of the penitence, as I had left outside in the
forms of the coats and waistcoats in the windows of the tailors'
shops. I found a vast amount of profession, varying very little in
character: varying very little (which I thought exceedingly
suspicious), even in words. I found a great many foxes,
disparaging whole vineyards of inaccessible grapes; but I found
very few foxes whom I would have trusted within reach of a bunch.
Above all, I found that the most professing men were the greatest
objects of interest; and that their conceit, their vanity, their
want of excitement, and their love of deception (which many of them
possessed to an almost incredible extent, as their histories
showed), all prompted to these professions, and were all gratified
by them.

However, I heard so repeatedly, in the course of our goings to and
fro, of a certain Number Twenty Seven, who was the Favourite, and
who really appeared to be a Model Prisoner, that I resolved to
suspend my judgement until I should see Twenty Seven. Twenty
Eight, I understood, was also a bright particular star; but it was
his misfortune to have his glory a little dimmed by the
extraordinary lustre of Twenty Seven. I heard so much of Twenty
Seven, of his pious admonitions to everybody around him, and of the
beautiful letters he constantly wrote to his mother (whom he seemed
to consider in a very bad way), that I became quite impatient to
see him.

I had to restrain my impatience for some time, on account of Twenty
Seven being reserved for a concluding effect. But, at last, we
came to the door of his cell; and Mr. Creakle, looking through a
little hole in it, reported to us, in a state of the greatest
admiration, that he was reading a Hymn Book.

There was such a rush of heads immediately, to see Number Twenty
Seven reading his Hymn Book, that the little hole was blocked up,
six or seven heads deep. To remedy this inconvenience, and give us
an opportunity of conversing with Twenty Seven in all his purity,
Mr. Creakle directed the door of the cell to be unlocked, and
Twenty Seven to be invited out into the passage. This was done;
and whom should Traddles and I then behold, to our amazement, in
this converted Number Twenty Seven, but Uriah Heep!

He knew us directly; and said, as he came out - with the old
writhe, -

'How do you do, Mr. Copperfield? How do you do, Mr. Traddles?'

This recognition caused a general admiration in the party. I
rather thought that everyone was struck by his not being proud, and
taking notice of us.

'Well, Twenty Seven,' said Mr. Creakle, mournfully admiring him.
'How do you find yourself today?'

'I am very umble, sir!' replied Uriah Heep.

'You are always so, Twenty Seven,' said Mr. Creakle.

Here, another gentleman asked, with extreme anxiety: 'Are you quite
comfortable?'

'Yes, I thank you, sir!' said Uriah Heep, looking in that
direction. 'Far more comfortable here, than ever I was outside.
I see my follies, now, sir. That's what makes me comfortable.'

Several gentlemen were much affected; and a third questioner,
forcing himself to the front, inquired with extreme feeling: 'How
do you find the beef?'

'Thank you, sir,' replied Uriah, glancing in the new direction of
this voice, 'it was tougher yesterday than I could wish; but it's
my duty to bear. I have committed follies, gentlemen,' said Uriah,
looking round with a meek smile, 'and I ought to bear the
consequences without repining.'
A murmur, partly of gratification at Twenty Seven's celestial state
of mind, and partly of indignation against the Contractor who had
given him any cause of complaint (a note of which was immediately
made by Mr. Creakle), having subsided, Twenty Seven stood in the
midst of us, as if he felt himself the principal object of merit in
a highly meritorious museum. That we, the neophytes, might have an
excess of light shining upon us all at once, orders were given to
let out Twenty Eight.

I had been so much astonished already, that I only felt a kind of
resigned wonder when Mr. Littimer walked forth, reading a good
book!

'Twenty Eight,' said a gentleman in spectacles, who had not yet
spoken, 'you complained last week, my good fellow, of the cocoa.
How has it been since?'

'I thank you, sir,' said Mr. Littimer, 'it has been better made.
If I might take the liberty of saying so, sir, I don't think the
milk which is boiled with it is quite genuine; but I am aware, sir,
that there is a great adulteration of milk, in London, and that the
article in a pure state is difficult to be obtained.'

It appeared to me that the gentleman in spectacles backed his
Twenty Eight against Mr. Creakle's Twenty Seven, for each of them
took his own man in hand.

'What is your state of mind, Twenty Eight?' said the questioner in
spectacles.

'I thank you, sir,' returned Mr. Littimer; 'I see my follies now,
sir. I am a good deal troubled when I think of the sins of my
former companions, sir; but I trust they may find forgiveness.'

'You are quite happy yourself?' said the questioner, nodding
encouragement.

'I am much obliged to you, sir,' returned Mr. Littimer. 'Perfectly
so.'

'Is there anything at all on your mind now?' said the questioner.
'If so, mention it, Twenty Eight.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Littimer, without looking up, 'if my eyes have not
deceived me, there is a gentleman present who was acquainted with
me in my former life. It may be profitable to that gentleman to
know, sir, that I attribute my past follies, entirely to having
lived a thoughtless life in the service of young men; and to having
allowed myself to be led by them into weaknesses, which I had not
the strength to resist. I hope that gentleman will take warning,
sir, and will not be offended at my freedom. It is for his good.
I am conscious of my own past follies. I hope he may repent of all
the wickedness and sin to which he has been a party.'

I observed that several gentlemen were shading their eyes, each
with one hand, as if they had just come into church.

'This does you credit, Twenty Eight,' returned the questioner. 'I
should have expected it of you. Is there anything else?'

'Sir,' returned Mr. Littimer, slightly lifting up his eyebrows, but
not his eyes, 'there was a young woman who fell into dissolute
courses, that I endeavoured to save, sir, but could not rescue. I
beg that gentleman, if he has it in his power, to inform that young
woman from me that I forgive her her bad conduct towards myself,
and that I call her to repentance - if he will be so good.'

'I have no doubt, Twenty Eight,' returned the questioner, 'that the
gentleman you refer to feels very strongly - as we all must - what
you have so properly said. We will not detain you.'

'I thank you, sir,' said Mr. Littimer. 'Gentlemen, I wish you a
good day, and hoping you and your families will also see your
wickedness, and amend!'

With this, Number Twenty Eight retired, after a glance between him
and Uriah; as if they were not altogether unknown to each other,
through some medium of communication; and a murmur went round the
group, as his door shut upon him, that he was a most respectable
man, and a beautiful case.

'Now, Twenty Seven,' said Mr. Creakle, entering on a clear stage
with his man, 'is there anything that anyone can do for you? If
so, mention it.'

'I would umbly ask, sir,' returned Uriah, with a jerk of his
malevolent head, 'for leave to write again to mother.'

'It shall certainly be granted,' said Mr. Creakle.

'Thank you, sir! I am anxious about mother. I am afraid she ain't
safe.'

Somebody incautiously asked, what from? But there was a
scandalized whisper of 'Hush!'

'Immortally safe, sir,' returned Uriah, writhing in the direction
of the voice. 'I should wish mother to be got into my state. I
never should have been got into my present state if I hadn't come
here. I wish mother had come here. It would be better for
everybody, if they got took up, and was brought here.'

This sentiment gave unbounded satisfaction - greater satisfaction,
I think, than anything that had passed yet.

'Before I come here,' said Uriah, stealing a look at us, as if he
would have blighted the outer world to which we belonged, if he
could, 'I was given to follies; but now I am sensible of my
follies. There's a deal of sin outside. There's a deal of sin in
mother. There's nothing but sin everywhere - except here.'

'You are quite changed?' said Mr. Creakle.

'Oh dear, yes, sir!' cried this hopeful penitent.

'You wouldn't relapse, if you were going out?' asked somebody else.

'Oh de-ar no, sir!'

'Well!' said Mr. Creakle, 'this is very gratifying. You have
addressed Mr. Copperfield, Twenty Seven. Do you wish to say
anything further to him?'

'You knew me, a long time before I came here and was changed, Mr.
Copperfield,' said Uriah, looking at me; and a more villainous look
I never saw, even on his visage. 'You knew me when, in spite of my
follies, I was umble among them that was proud, and meek among them
that was violent - you was violent to me yourself, Mr. Copperfield.
Once, you struck me a blow in the face, you know.'

General commiseration. Several indignant glances directed at me.

'But I forgive you, Mr. Copperfield,' said Uriah, making his
forgiving nature the subject of a most impious and awful parallel,
which I shall not record. 'I forgive everybody. It would ill
become me to bear malice. I freely forgive you, and I hope you'll
curb your passions in future. I hope Mr. W. will repent, and Miss
W., and all of that sinful lot. You've been visited with
affliction, and I hope it may do you good; but you'd better have
come here. Mr. W. had better have come here, and Miss W. too. The
best wish I could give you, Mr. Copperfield, and give all of you
gentlemen, is, that you could be took up and brought here. When I
think of my past follies, and my present state, I am sure it would
be best for you. I pity all who ain't brought here!'

He sneaked back into his cell, amidst a little chorus of
approbation; and both Traddles and I experienced a great relief
when he was locked in.

It was a characteristic feature in this repentance, that I was fain
to ask what these two men had done, to be there at all. That
appeared to be the last thing about which they had anything to say.
I addressed myself to one of the two warders, who, I suspected from
certain latent indications in their faces, knew pretty well what
all this stir was worth.

'Do you know,' said I, as we walked along the passage, 'what felony
was Number Twenty Seven's last "folly"?'

The answer was that it was a Bank case.

'A fraud on the Bank of England?' I asked.
'Yes, sir. Fraud, forgery, and conspiracy. He and some others.
He set the others on. It was a deep plot for a large sum.
Sentence, transportation for life. Twenty Seven was the knowingest
bird of the lot, and had very nearly kept himself safe; but not
quite. The Bank was just able to put salt upon his tail - and only
just.'

'Do you know Twenty Eight's offence?'

'Twenty Eight,' returned my informant, speaking throughout in a low
tone, and looking over his shoulder as we walked along the passage,
to guard himself from being overheard, in such an unlawful
reference to these Immaculates, by Creakle and the rest; 'Twenty
Eight (also transportation) got a place, and robbed a young master
of a matter of two hundred and fifty pounds in money and valuables,
the night before they were going abroad. I particularly recollect
his case, from his being took by a dwarf.'

'A what?'

'A little woman. I have forgot her name?'

'Not Mowcher?'

'That's it! He had eluded pursuit, and was going to America in a
flaxen wig, and whiskers, and such a complete disguise as never you
see in all your born days; when the little woman, being in
Southampton, met him walking along the street - picked him out with
her sharp eye in a moment - ran betwixt his legs to upset him - and
held on to him like grim Death.'

'Excellent Miss Mowcher!' cried I.

'You'd have said so, if you had seen her, standing on a chair in
the witness-box at the trial, as I did,' said my friend. 'He cut
her face right open, and pounded her in the most brutal manner,
when she took him; but she never loosed her hold till he was locked
up. She held so tight to him, in fact, that the officers were
obliged to take 'em both together. She gave her evidence in the
gamest way, and was highly complimented by the Bench, and cheered
right home to her lodgings. She said in Court that she'd have took
him single-handed (on account of what she knew concerning him), if
he had been Samson. And it's my belief she would!'

It was mine too, and I highly respected Miss Mowcher for it.

We had now seen all there was to see. It would have been in vain
to represent to such a man as the Worshipful Mr. Creakle, that
Twenty Seven and Twenty Eight were perfectly consistent and
unchanged; that exactly what they were then, they had always been;
that the hypocritical knaves were just the subjects to make that
sort of profession in such a place; that they knew its market-value
at least as well as we did, in the immediate service it would do
them when they were expatriated; in a word, that it was a rotten,
hollow, painfully suggestive piece of business altogether. We left
them to their system and themselves, and went home wondering.

'Perhaps it's a good thing, Traddles,' said I, 'to have an unsound
Hobby ridden hard; for it's the sooner ridden to death.'

'I hope so,' replied Traddles.

CHAPTER 62
A LIGHT SHINES ON MY WAY

The year came round to Christmas-time, and I had been at home above
two months. I had seen Agnes frequently. However loud the general
voice might be in giving me encouragement, and however fervent the
emotions and endeavours to which it roused me, I heard her lightest
word of praise as I heard nothing else.

At least once a week, and sometimes oftener, I rode over there, and
passed the evening. I usually rode back at night; for the old
unhappy sense was always hovering about me now - most sorrowfully
when I left her - and I was glad to be up and out, rather than
wandering over the past in weary wakefulness or miserable dreams.
I wore away the longest part of many wild sad nights, in those
rides; reviving, as I went, the thoughts that had occupied me in my
long absence.

Or, if I were to say rather that I listened to the echoes of those
thoughts, I should better express the truth. They spoke to me from
afar off. I had put them at a distance, and accepted my inevitable
place. When I read to Agnes what I wrote; when I saw her listening
face; moved her to smiles or tears; and heard her cordial voice so
earnest on the shadowy events of that imaginative world in which I
lived; I thought what a fate mine might have been - but only
thought so, as I had thought after I was married to Dora, what I
could have wished my wife to be.

My duty to Agnes, who loved me with a love, which, if I disquieted,
I wronged most selfishly and poorly, and could never restore; my
matured assurance that I, who had worked out my own destiny, and
won what I had impetuously set my heart on, had no right to murmur,
and must bear; comprised what I felt and what I had learned. But
I loved her: and now it even became some consolation to me, vaguely
to conceive a distant day when I might blamelessly avow it; when
all this should be over; when I could say 'Agnes, so it was when I
came home; and now I am old, and I never have loved since!'

She did not once show me any change in herself. What she always
had been to me, she still was; wholly unaltered.

Between my aunt and me there had been something, in this connexion,
since the night of my return, which I cannot call a restraint, or
an avoidance of the subject, so much as an implied understanding
that we thought of it together, but did not shape our thoughts into
words. When, according to our old custom, we sat before the fire
at night, we often fell into this train; as naturally, and as
consciously to each other, as if we had unreservedly said so. But
we preserved an unbroken silence. I believed that she had read, or
partly read, my thoughts that night; and that she fully
comprehended why I gave mine no more distinct expression.

This Christmas-time being come, and Agnes having reposed no new
confidence in me, a doubt that had several times arisen in my mind
- whether she could have that perception of the true state of my
breast, which restrained her with the apprehension of giving me
pain - began to oppress me heavily. If that were so, my sacrifice
was nothing; my plainest obligation to her unfulfilled; and every
poor action I had shrunk from, I was hourly doing. I resolved to
set this right beyond all doubt; - if such a barrier were between
us, to break it down at once with a determined hand.

It was - what lasting reason have I to remember it! - a cold,
harsh, winter day. There had been snow, some hours before; and it
lay, not deep, but hard-frozen on the ground. Out at sea, beyond
my window, the wind blew ruggedly from the north. I had been
thinking of it, sweeping over those mountain wastes of snow in
Switzerland, then inaccessible to any human foot; and had been
speculating which was the lonelier, those solitary regions, or a
deserted ocean.

'Riding today, Trot?' said my aunt, putting her head in at the
door.

'Yes,' said I, 'I am going over to Canterbury. It's a good day for
a ride.'

'I hope your horse may think so too,' said my aunt; 'but at present
he is holding down his head and his ears, standing before the door
there, as if he thought his stable preferable.'

My aunt, I may observe, allowed my horse on the forbidden ground,
but had not at all relented towards the donkeys.

'He will be fresh enough, presently!' said I.

'The ride will do his master good, at all events,' observed my
aunt, glancing at the papers on my table. 'Ah, child, you pass a
good many hours here! I never thought, when I used to read books,
what work it was to write them.'

'It's work enough to read them, sometimes,' I returned. 'As to the
writing, it has its own charms, aunt.'

'Ah! I see!' said my aunt. 'Ambition, love of approbation,
sympathy, and much more, I suppose? Well: go along with you!'

'Do you know anything more,' said I, standing composedly before her
- she had patted me on the shoulder, and sat down in my chair - 'of
that attachment of Agnes?'

She looked up in my face a little while, before replying:

'I think I do, Trot.'

'Are you confirmed in your impression?' I inquired.

'I think I am, Trot.'

She looked so steadfastly at me: with a kind of doubt, or pity, or
suspense in her affection: that I summoned the stronger
determination to show her a perfectly cheerful face.

'And what is more, Trot -' said my aunt.

'Yes!'

'I think Agnes is going to be married.'

'God bless her!' said I, cheerfully.

'God bless her!' said my aunt, 'and her husband too!'

I echoed it, parted from my aunt, and went lightly downstairs,
mounted, and rode away. There was greater reason than before to do
what I had resolved to do.

How well I recollect the wintry ride! The frozen particles of ice,
brushed from the blades of grass by the wind, and borne across my
face; the hard clatter of the horse's hoofs, beating a tune upon
the ground; the stiff-tilled soil; the snowdrift, lightly eddying
in the chalk-pit as the breeze ruffled it; the smoking team with
the waggon of old hay, stopping to breathe on the hill-top, and
shaking their bells musically; the whitened slopes and sweeps of
Down-land lying against the dark sky, as if they were drawn on a
huge slate!

I found Agnes alone. The little girls had gone to their own homes
now, and she was alone by the fire, reading. She put down her book
on seeing me come in; and having welcomed me as usual, took her
work-basket and sat in one of the old-fashioned windows.

I sat beside her on the window-seat, and we talked of what I was
doing, and when it would be done, and of the progress I had made
since my last visit. Agnes was very cheerful; and laughingly
predicted that I should soon become too famous to be talked to, on
such subjects.

'So I make the most of the present time, you see,' said Agnes, 'and
talk to you while I may.'

As I looked at her beautiful face, observant of her work, she
raised her mild clear eyes, and saw that I was looking at her.

'You are thoughtful today, Trotwood!'

'Agnes, shall I tell you what about? I came to tell you.'

She put aside her work, as she was used to do when we were
seriously discussing anything; and gave me her whole attention.

'My dear Agnes, do you doubt my being true to you?'

'No!' she answered, with a look of astonishment.

'Do you doubt my being what I always have been to you?'

'No!' she answered, as before.

'Do you remember that I tried to tell you, when I came home, what
a debt of gratitude I owed you, dearest Agnes, and how fervently I
felt towards you?'

'I remember it,' she said, gently, 'very well.'

'You have a secret,' said I. 'Let me share it, Agnes.'

She cast down her eyes, and trembled.

'I could hardly fail to know, even if I had not heard - but from
other lips than yours, Agnes, which seems strange - that there is
someone upon whom you have bestowed the treasure of your love. Do
not shut me out of what concerns your happiness so nearly! If you
can trust me, as you say you can, and as I know you may, let me be
your friend, your brother, in this matter, of all others!'

With an appealing, almost a reproachful, glance, she rose from the
window; and hurrying across the room as if without knowing where,
put her hands before her face, and burst into such tears as smote
me to the heart.

And yet they awakened something in me, bringing promise to my
heart. Without my knowing why, these tears allied themselves with
the quietly sad smile which was so fixed in my remembrance, and
shook me more with hope than fear or sorrow.

'Agnes! Sister! Dearest! What have I done?'

'Let me go away, Trotwood. I am not well. I am not myself. I
will speak to you by and by - another time. I will write to you.
Don't speak to me now. Don't! don't!'

I sought to recollect what she had said, when I had spoken to her
on that former night, of her affection needing no return. It
seemed a very world that I must search through in a moment.
'Agnes, I cannot bear to see you so, and think that I have been the
cause. My dearest girl, dearer to me than anything in life, if you
are unhappy, let me share your unhappiness. If you are in need of
help or counsel, let me try to give it to you. If you have indeed
a burden on your heart, let me try to lighten it. For whom do I
live now, Agnes, if it is not for you!'

'Oh, spare me! I am not myself! Another time!' was all I could
distinguish.

Was it a selfish error that was leading me away? Or, having once
a clue to hope, was there something opening to me that I had not
dared to think of?

'I must say more. I cannot let you leave me so! For Heaven's sake,
Agnes, let us not mistake each other after all these years, and all
that has come and gone with them! I must speak plainly. If you
have any lingering thought that I could envy the happiness you will
confer; that I could not resign you to a dearer protector, of your
own choosing; that I could not, from my removed place, be a
contented witness of your joy; dismiss it, for I don't deserve it!
I have not suffered quite in vain. You have not taught me quite in
vain. There is no alloy of self in what I feel for you.'

She was quiet now. In a little time, she turned her pale face
towards me, and said in a low voice, broken here and there, but
very clear:

'I owe it to your pure friendship for me, Trotwood - which, indeed,
I do not doubt - to tell you, you are mistaken. I can do no more.
If I have sometimes, in the course of years, wanted help and
counsel, they have come to me. If I have sometimes been unhappy,
the feeling has passed away. If I have ever had a burden on my
heart, it has been lightened for me. If I have any secret, it is
- no new one; and is - not what you suppose. I cannot reveal it,
or divide it. It has long been mine, and must remain mine.'

'Agnes! Stay! A moment!'

She was going away, but I detained her. I clasped my arm about her
waist. 'In the course of years!' 'It is not a new one!' New
thoughts and hopes were whirling through my mind, and all the
colours of my life were changing.

'Dearest Agnes! Whom I so respect and honour - whom I so devotedly
love! When I came here today, I thought that nothing could have
wrested this confession from me. I thought I could have kept it in
my bosom all our lives, till we were old. But, Agnes, if I have
indeed any new-born hope that I may ever call you something more
than Sister, widely different from Sister! -'

Her tears fell fast; but they were not like those she had lately
shed, and I saw my hope brighten in them.

'Agnes! Ever my guide, and best support! If you had been more
mindful of yourself, and less of me, when we grew up here together,
I think my heedless fancy never would have wandered from you. But
you were so much better than I, so necessary to me in every boyish
hope and disappointment, that to have you to confide in, and rely
upon in everything, became a second nature, supplanting for the
time the first and greater one of loving you as I do!'

Still weeping, but not sadly - joyfully! And clasped in my arms as
she had never been, as I had thought she never was to be!

'When I loved Dora - fondly, Agnes, as you know -'

'Yes!' she cried, earnestly. 'I am glad to know it!'

'When I loved her - even then, my love would have been incomplete,
without your sympathy. I had it, and it was perfected. And when
I lost her, Agnes, what should I have been without you, still!'

Closer in my arms, nearer to my heart, her trembling hand upon my
shoulder, her sweet eyes shining through her tears, on mine!

'I went away, dear Agnes, loving you. I stayed away, loving you.
I returned home, loving you!'

And now, I tried to tell her of the struggle I had had, and the
conclusion I had come to. I tried to lay my mind before her,
truly, and entirely. I tried to show her how I had hoped I had
come into the better knowledge of myself and of her; how I had
resigned myself to what that better knowledge brought; and how I
had come there, even that day, in my fidelity to this. If she did
so love me (I said) that she could take me for her husband, she
could do so, on no deserving of mine, except upon the truth of my
love for her, and the trouble in which it had ripened to be what it
was; and hence it was that I revealed it. And O, Agnes, even out
of thy true eyes, in that same time, the spirit of my child-wife
looked upon me, saying it was well; and winning me, through thee,
to tenderest recollections of the Blossom that had withered in its
bloom!

'I am so blest, Trotwood - my heart is so overcharged - but there
is one thing I must say.'

'Dearest, what?'

She laid her gentle hands upon my shoulders, and looked calmly in
my face.

'Do you know, yet, what it is?'

'I am afraid to speculate on what it is. Tell me, my dear.'

'I have loved you all my life!'

O, we were happy, we were happy! Our tears were not for the trials
(hers so much the greater) through which we had come to be thus,
but for the rapture of being thus, never to be divided more!

We walked, that winter evening, in the fields together; and the
blessed calm within us seemed to be partaken by the frosty air.
The early stars began to shine while we were lingering on, and
looking up to them, we thanked our GOD for having guided us to this
tranquillity.

We stood together in the same old-fashioned window at night, when
the moon was shining; Agnes with her quiet eyes raised up to it; I
following her glance. Long miles of road then opened out before my
mind; and, toiling on, I saw a ragged way-worn boy, forsaken and
neglected, who should come to call even the heart now beating
against mine, his own.

It was nearly dinner-time next day when we appeared before my aunt.
She was up in my study, Peggotty said: which it was her pride to
keep in readiness and order for me. We found her, in her
spectacles, sitting by the fire.

'Goodness me!' said my aunt, peering through the dusk, 'who's this
you're bringing home?'

'Agnes,' said I.

As we had arranged to say nothing at first, my aunt was not a
little discomfited. She darted a hopeful glance at me, when I said
'Agnes'; but seeing that I looked as usual, she took off her
spectacles in despair, and rubbed her nose with them.

She greeted Agnes heartily, nevertheless; and we were soon in the
lighted parlour downstairs, at dinner. My aunt put on her
spectacles twice or thrice, to take another look at me, but as
often took them off again, disappointed, and rubbed her nose with
them. Much to the discomfiture of Mr. Dick, who knew this to be a
bad symptom.

'By the by, aunt,' said I, after dinner; 'I have been speaking to
Agnes about what you told me.'

'Then, Trot,' said my aunt, turning scarlet, 'you did wrong, and
broke your promise.'

'You are not angry, aunt, I trust? I am sure you won't be, when
you learn that Agnes is not unhappy in any attachment.'

'Stuff and nonsense!' said my aunt.

As my aunt appeared to be annoyed, I thought the best way was to
cut her annoyance short. I took Agnes in my arm to the back of her
chair, and we both leaned over her. My aunt, with one clap of her
hands, and one look through her spectacles, immediately went into
hysterics, for the first and only time in all my knowledge of her.

The hysterics called up Peggotty. The moment my aunt was restored,
she flew at Peggotty, and calling her a silly old creature, hugged
her with all her might. After that, she hugged Mr. Dick (who was
highly honoured, but a good deal surprised); and after that, told
them why. Then, we were all happy together.

I could not discover whether my aunt, in her last short
conversation with me, had fallen on a pious fraud, or had really
mistaken the state of my mind. It was quite enough, she said, that
she had told me Agnes was going to be married; and that I now knew
better than anyone how true it was.

We were married within a fortnight. Traddles and Sophy, and Doctor
and Mrs. Strong, were the only guests at our quiet wedding. We
left them full of joy; and drove away together. Clasped in my
embrace, I held the source of every worthy aspiration I had ever
had; the centre of myself, the circle of my life, my own, my wife;
my love of whom was founded on a rock!

'Dearest husband!' said Agnes. 'Now that I may call you by that
name, I have one thing more to tell you.'

'Let me hear it, love.'

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